Affiliate of the Month: 26.2 CrossFit Helps 1,500-Plus People Cross “Run a Marathon” Off Their Bucket List

November 1, 2023 by
Courtesy of Allie Newell
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Allie Newell “really sucked at running.”

In fact, when he went to a running seminar 15 years ago with endurance coach Brian Mackenzie, he said he was told, “We haven’t actually seen anyone run as bad as you in our careers,” said Newell, who started CrossFit in 2007.

Fifteen years later, at the age of 53, Newell has completed 12 marathons and has helped more than 1,500 CrossFit enthusiasts run their first half or full marathon. Further, he has trained more than 50 marathon runners by adding CrossFit to their training program.

The 26.2 CrossFit Story

After finding value in running as a CrossFit athlete, Newell decided to open a gym devoted to helping CrossFit athletes run, and runners use CrossFit to improve their running.

  • “People in CrossFit could really benefit from running training, and runners could really benefit from CrossFit training, so let’s open an affiliate and name it 26.2 CrossFit,” Newell said of his original vision for his gym.

But he quickly realized convincing people of this might be harder than he thought. 

  • “Runners abhor CrossFit and CrossFitters will sell kidneys to keep from running, so it was a hard run to get people to start coming to us, because nobody who ran wanted to CrossFIt, and nobody who CrossFitted wanted to run,” he said.

But somehow through the months and years,  Newell managed to overcome the objections and has helped countless people gain fitness and become better runners.

One big thing: For 14 years, Newell has been preparing his clients to run a marathon by logging a fraction of the running miles of a traditional marathon running program. 

  • “We get people conditioned to run 26 miles with no more than a 12 mile long run,” he said.

As a general rule, most of his marathon finishers train by running just twice a week, on top of doing CrossFit three to five days a week.

The first run each week typically focuses on speed work, while the second run is longer, but definitely not as long as traditional marathon running programs, Newell explained. Ultimately, the furthest he ever gets his lifestyle athletes to run prior to running their marathon is one hour out and one hour back, which for most people is in and around a half marathon.

The big picture: Fourteen years into gym ownership, Newell, who still coaches 25 classes a month, and is as passionate about what he does as when he went to Mackenzie’s running clinic 15 years ago. It’s easy, he said, because every day is different.

Some days it’s clients that keep him around, like his client with scoliosis who has seen huge benefits from CrossFit. 

  • “Sometimes it’s people like her, but sometimes it’s the people who run their first marathon,” he said. 
  • “Some days I do it because I get a paycheck. And some days I do it because I have a free membership at a gym, and I have a gym and can bring my dog,” he admitted. 

Mostly, though, it’s the community that keeps Newell coming back each day.

“The community is so deep and so tight. I have been in motorcycle clubs, I have been in the fire department, I have taught in the military. I have done so many things, and the camaraderie and the love that you get at the gym, from the people in the gym, is amazing, and I come back for that,” he said.

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